PINE BLUFF, Ark. — The owner of the Martha Beall Mitchell Museum says he plans to sell it after 40 years, citing fatigue with keeping it up.
Bob Abbott, a local businessman who purchased Mitchell’s childhood home in 1976 and turned it into a museum, said he’s soliciting buyers he hopes will continue to operate it as a museum.
“I’ve had (the house) all these years, we’ve had thousands of people to go through that thing,” Abbott told the Pine Bluff Commercial (http://bit.ly/2qU0KeB ). “But you know I’m just wore out. My intentions, I hope, will be to find someone to keep it as a museum.”
Born in 1918 in Pine Bluff, Mitchell was married to President Richard Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell. A well-known socialite in Washington, D.C., she rose to prominence during the Watergate scandal for her willingness to speak to the press about the administration’s corruption. Mitchell was dogged during the scandal by rumors in the media that she was in and out mental hospitals.
In a televised interview with British journalist David Frost, Nixon later identified Mitchell as one of the reasons for his downfall.
“If it hadn’t been for Martha, there’d have been no Watergate, because John (Mitchell) wasn’t mindin’ that store,” Nixon said. “He was practically out of his mind about Martha in the spring of 1972. He was letting (Jeb Stuart) Magruder and all these boys, these kids, these nuts run this thing. The point is that if John had been watchin’ that store, Watergate would never have happened.”
Abbott, an admirer of Mitchell’s and a longtime collector of historical artifacts, said he had made arrangements to purchase Mitchell’s childhood home at 902 West Fourth Avenue when she passed away over Memorial Day weekend in 1976.
“I didn’t buy the house to make a museum,” Abbott said. “But when she died and was buried here, every major newspaper swarmed (to town). ABC, NBC, CBS, educational TV, freelance people…